NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino says the officials did the right thing when they flagged 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for running on the field during last week’s playoff game in Carolina.
In an officiating video distributed to the media, Blandino showed Harbaugh coming on the field late in the first half and addressed the issue.
“We’ve got to make sure that coaches can’t come on the field after the play, during the play like this to get the attention of an official,” Blandino said. “They’ve got to stay on the sideline. So we penalized him 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Blandino added that unless a coach directly interferes with a play, the penalty for running on the field is treated as if it occurred after the play.
“An unsportsmanlike conduct foul like this, even if the coach is flagged during the play, for being on the field during the play, that foul is enforced as a dead-ball foul,” Blandino said. “So unless he actually interfered with the play — you could potentially have a palpably unfair act, the referee could award a score, take away a score, do whatever he feels equitable — but if that foul is just a normal unsportsmanlike conduct for being on the field, and he didn’t interfere with the play, that foul is always enforced as a dead-ball foul. Whatever happened on the play counts, and then the 15-yard penalty is enforced afterward.”
Coaches are rarely flagged for being on the field, as officials usually give them plenty of leeway. But after Mike Tomlin was fined and stripped of a draft pick, and Harbaugh was penalized 15 yards, Blandino would hope that coaches get the message that they have to stay off the field.